Find out how Nicola got on during her third week of the #trysomethingactive challenge and join in now for your chance to win some Bounce balls…

This week I became an orange belt!

Because martial arts came to Western shores through the war years from Americans stationed in Japan, a lot of the things we associate with martial arts have been put in place since the 1940s. The idea of belts and gradings were part of this; I think the early teachers felt that they needed some kind of rewards system to entice Western people into trying something so different.

Our class leading up to the grading was hard work as the instructors wanted to make sure the syllabus was really tight in our heads. We graded on Sunday, and a grading generally involves a fairly brutal warm-up to bash out any nerves, followed by showing your knowledge of basics, such as stances and punches, then the patterns, self defence moves and the ‘il soo sik dae ryun’ – or one-step sparring (showing off a few fighting moves over and over). We were one of many groups grading for various belts.

On Wednesday, the week after the grading, we went to class but didn’t get our belts as our instructor takes the Thursday class. Wednesday was, however, all about stretching to aim for a larger range in kicks. Flexibility isn’t crucial in Tang Soo Do, but if you can stretch safely to aim higher then it’s absolutely encouraged. Needless to say, on Thursday we were all walking somewhat strangely!

The stretching involved standing with your back to a wall and, working with a partner, pulling your leg up as close to your head as possible. You then push your heel down on the other person’s shoulder as hard as you can for ten seconds, then release and push your foot up again.

You are essentially fooling your muscles into thinking they can push up further after being compressed. The stretches we did afterwards were variations on that theme and experimenting with side and front abduction in the hip. After that we used our stretched legs to kick pads held high while someone else crouched in front of the pad. There was no room for error there!

At the class on Thursday night we received our grading certificate and our new belts. It’s really rewarding to receive a new belt, and also to see the rest of the class go up a level. That lesson was a typical post-exam lesson: lots of fun! After a pretty snappy warm-up we went straight into lots of physical games and take-downs. These involved holding the other person’s shoulder and opposite elbow then using a push/pull motion to throw the other person down onto the mats. This progressed onto take-downs with arm bars and locks (very Ronda Rousey!) and grappling. Tang Soo Do doesn’t involve grappling as such, but our instructor is very knowledgeable and wanted us to let off a bit of steam after the grading. I found I was something of a natural at between-the-legs arm-bars, which isn’t something you learn every day.

By Friday I was feeling absolutely knackered! A grading is a tough mental and physical challenge, and during it one of the red belts graded alone but needed support doing the warm-up, so we all got up and did a rather gruelling red belt warm-up. It was certainly an eye-opener but at least I know I am capable of doing it when the time comes.


After the grading we got a chance to drink some water and I immediately had a Cacao Orange Bounce Ball. I also took some for my other orange belt friends and we all agreed they kept us going during the afternoon, as we didn’t get much chance to stop for lunch. Mine certainly kept me going until we got back for dinner, so I was really glad I put some protein in my system in such a tasty way!

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